Seeds and Cereals

Health Benefits of Poppy Seed

Coming from the poppy plant (scientific name: Papaver somniferum) or poppy, these seeds do not contain narcotic properties. 

They are tiny and misshapen shaped like a blue slate, with a crisp texture and a nut-like taste.

They are commonly served with flavored bread, cakes, bread rolls and biscuits. Poppy seeds are usually floured on top of plates, used as a decoration or spice in cheese, eggs, pie crust, biscuits, cakes, salads, sauce, sauces for meat and fish, vegetables and pasta.

Frying them gently in a dry skillet makes them crunchy and reinforces the pleasant nutty flavor. In India, poppy seeds are used for seasoning or as a condiment.

Poppy seeds have been cultivated for over 3,000 years. During the second century, women used the plant’s flowers as a controlled substance for the purpose of medication.

Muslim and Arab countries already used controlled compounds such as drugs and narcotics during the 6th century. Poppy seeds are planted in many European nations and in countries like Australia, India and Turkey.

In addition to being used as an ingredient in different foods, these seeds are compressed to make poppy seed oil flavored with nutritional properties.


People commonly express concern about narcotic substances found in the flowers of the plant from which the poppy seeds originate.

While it is true that the pure seed of the plant has alkaloids such as morphine, an addictive pain reliever, the ripe seeds used for preparations contain only traces that do not appear to promote any addiction.

However, we must bear in mind that only trace amounts of alkaloids result in a false positive in drug tests.

Once ingested, the alkaloids will remain in the body for up to 2 days and therefore ongoing checks of results need to be carried out.


  • Poppy seeds are effective in ending thirst, fever, inflammation, constipation and irritation of the abdomen.
  • Poppy seeds are one of the key ingredients in many cold medicines.
  • Poppy seeds act as a daily supply of minerals such as iodine, manganese, zinc, magnesium and copper.
  • The oil from the poppy seed plant is beneficial in the treatment of carcinoma as it has monounsaturated fatty acids.
  • Poppy seeds give flavor and texture to breads, cookies, salads, cakes and other snacks.
  • As an Ayurvedic medicine, these seeds are sometimes put in a paste with milk to make a moisturizer that renews the skin.
  • Poppy seeds contain linoleic acid, which is helpful in preventing heart disorders and problems in the abdomen.
  • These seeds have a supply of fatty acids that are critical to the physiological state of the body. It has been found to be rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Poppy seeds are also used as narcotics to treat pain-related situations. They are used in the treatment of breathing disorders, infectious diseases, diarrhea and sleep disorders.
  • Poppy seeds contain partially lesser amounts of alkaloids and are used in the treatment of various nervous diseases.
  • Poppy seeds are effective in treating eczema due to the high amount of linolenic acid. The application of an external paste helps to treat the burning and itchy sensation in the skin. It also works effectively in preventing pain, easing the discomfort caused by skin inflammation.
  • Poppy seeds are a great source of unsaturated fatty acids and minerals such as calcium, zinc and magnesium that contribute to healthy hair.


The poppy plant is a biennial herb of eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor origin belonging to the family  Papaveraceae , in the genus: Papaver .

Ancient Egyptians knew of harvesting poppy seeds from flowers. Through Arab traders, opium cultivation spread to Persia.

Today, poppy seeds are a well-established commercial crop in many parts of the world, including the Czech Republic, Germany, Turkey, France, India and parts of Eastern Europe.

The poppy plant grows up to 1.5 meters in height. It requires full sunlight and fertile soil to flourish. Depending on their variety, lilac, blue, red or white flowers appear during spring on long peduncles that later turn into globular or oval fruit (seed capsules).

Each globular poppy fruit head (capsule) measures about 4-6 cm in length and 3-4 cm in diameter, contains numerous small, bean-shaped seeds that rattle when shaken within the dry capsules.

Every 100 grams of poppy seeds contain:

  • 525 calories;
  • 42 grams of fat;
  • 0 milligrams of cholesterol;
  • 26 milligrams of sodium;
  • 719 milligrams of potassium;
  • 28 grams of carbohydrates;
  • 18 grams of protein;


The right selection of edible items is critical, especially in the current scenario, when food modification is a common episode. With regard to poppy seeds, there are several varieties that differ in colors from ivory to beige, light gray to dark gray, black or bluish depending on the type of cultivation.

The European variety called Maw is dark gray in color, the Indian variety is ivory to beige, while the Turkish variety is tobacco brown in color. Poppy seeds are available in fresh and ground form. 

They have a high content of polyunsaturated fats and are therefore vulnerable to oxidation. So they can become rancid easily. Be sure to buy top quality whole seeds from an authentic store with a proper sale to ensure they are fresh. They should be small and light.

The best way to store poppy seeds is to keep them in a cool, dry, dark place in an airtight container. They can stay fresh for up to 6 months. And they must be kept away from moisture.


Many people wonder about poppy seeds and what they are for. Poppy seeds are used in many cultures to impart the rich nutty flavor to recipes.

Before using them, clean the seeds properly to remove any type of stone. They should be soaked in warm water or milk for 2 hours. Discard the liquid and let it dry. These soaked seeds can be used alone or combined with other spices to thicken sauces.

The poppy, in general, is used in the form of whole seeds, ground, as well as thick or thin paste in recipes.

  • Like sesame, poppy has also found its place on toast, bread and seafood.
  • In India and Pakistan, where its seeds are popular as “khus khus”, the lightly fried poppy was placed in a blender to prepare a fine paste used as a vitalizer for savory and sweet dishes.
  • In southern India, poppy seed milk is used to prepare the popular sweet recipe with milk, coconut milk, cardamom, raisins and sugar.
  • In Central Europe, especially Austria and Hungary, the seeds are used in a popular sweet pastry dish called Strudel.
  • Seeds are also widely used in confectionery products such as bread rolls, baguettes, sweet bread, biscuits and cakes.


Allergic effects to poppy seeds are rare. They can be used safely, even on pregnant women and children.

Athletes, however, need to keep in mind that they can test to false positives when consuming food items containing poppy seeds by prohibited opiate substances such as morphine, codeine, etc.

However, these compounds may not be high enough to produce side effects from narcotic drugs.


Poppy seed oil has a pleasant nutty flavor and is safe from any of the sinister side effects of many other poppy plant products such as opium.

About half of poppy seeds contain volatile essential oils and healthy fatty acids. Linoleic acid and oleic acid are two of these worthy of mention.

Oleic acid supports lower bad cholesterol and higher good cholesterol, LDL and HDL, respectively. This helps ensure good fiber digestion and lower bad blood cholesterol.

Throughout the 19th century, poppy seed oil was used for different functions, including oil for lamp fuel, for cooking, making varnish, and for making soap and paint.

Today poppy seed oil is used for the same things, and adds to that numerous pharmaceutical and culinary applications. It is used as a pharmaceutical item for various drugs and is also added to olive and almond oils.

We cannot forget the most important culinary uses, which are as a salad dressing or a dressing base. Poppy seed oil makes a fabulous healthy fat dressing.

For decades the oil has been used to treat tumors, this oil has similar properties to lipiodol, which is integral in the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (Primary liver cancer – HCC).

Poppy seed oil is more stable than many other oils, so it is less likely to go rancid.

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Robert Asprin, APD is a non-dieting Accredited Practicing Dietitian passionate about inspiring positive changes in eating and lifestyle behaviors to help improve health while nurturing relationships with food and body.

Robert Asprin

Robert Asprin, APD is a non-dieting Accredited Practicing Dietitian passionate about inspiring positive changes in eating and lifestyle behaviors to help improve health while nurturing relationships with food and body.

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